(Note: The EncTyr will not provide an overview and classification of all authoritarian regimes in this world. This has been done before in datasets, and would require regular updating in order not to lose relevance. This is not our mission.)
A Research Guide to Authoritarianism
The Encyclopedia Tyrannica (hereafter: EncTyr) is more than a classical encyclopedia. It aims to serve as a research guide for students and scholars of authoritarianism and democratization, as well as non-academic experts that are less familiar with the theoretical bases of commonly-used concepts.
The EncTyr is also much more than just an “introduction to.” It places key concepts in their historical, theoretical and methodological contexts; provides a (sufficiently) exhaustive literature review for any reader to check if they have no personal ‘unknown unknowns,’ and goes even further by presenting entries’ variation of application in (the study of) different world regions. Moreover, entries’ impact on policy-making, new frontiers in the literature, and a literature review in non-English languages is explored.
The EncTyr addresses a growing issue that scholars of authoritarian studies are facing today: the ever-expanding sprawl of the political science focused on authoritarianism and its proliferation of niche-specializations on various of its aspects (legitimacy, regime behavior, etc.). This is particularly challenging for newcomers to the field, who need years to orientate themselves in the enormous literature, create mental maps of how research traditions merge and separate, and how key concepts evolved over time.
The field of authoritarian studies has been rapidly evolving since WWII, encountering several paradigm shifts along the way. This has resulted in a somewhat fragmented scholarly community with very differentiated fields of interest. Currently, scholars usually work mainly on one chosen group of regimes (e.g. eroding democracies, hybrid regimes – meaning: authoritarianism with meaningful elections – or closed autocracies). Or they focus on just some aspects of regime behavior (transition, emergence, repression, etc.). In addition, there is much variation regarding the use of theories and concepts per world region: African studies, Eurasian Studies and Latin American studies (to name but a few) all have distinct research traditions with their own interpretation of key concepts. Another issue is the historical evolution of conceptual notions: their original meanings, their current trends (either becoming more refined or more diluted over time), as well as their short-hand use in everyday (non-academic) contexts. This has led to quite some confusion regarding defining and applying theoretical frames and concepts.
To recap, there is so much specialized literature out there that interested scholars are unable to uncover the relevant literature for all its related topics. This leads to several issues that have plagued the field. Scholars of democratization do not always have a comprehensive understanding of the heterogeneous nature of dictatorship, leading to all kinds of methodological pitfalls. Typically, most of them focus solely on hybrid regimes, but their findings cannot be universally applied and are too often context-dependent. In turn, theorists of authoritarianism find it hard to keep track of the myriad discoveries coming from in-depth case-study work challenging existing beliefs and necessary to update mainstream theories. Area study experts too often hold on to outdated theoretical models, unaware of updated versions or better alternatives. As a result, advancements in the wider field tend to be haphazard and with limited synergy.
The mission of the EncTyr is thus aimed at guiding all these different readers, provide them with an (almost) exhaustive treatise of all core concepts in the field, presenting their methodological limitations, their varied application to different world regions, as well as other insights required to facilitate research, prevent blind spots and show which trodden paths lead somewhere (and which ones are proven dead-ends).
The EncTyr will not have the usual (pure alphabetical) outlook of an encyclopedia. It will be divided into sections and entries will be logically organized per section. Some sections will present entries alphabetically (e.g. concepts), others will follow a logical taxonomy (e.g. classifications of dictatorships) or chronology. The goal is to present information to readers in a sensible way, so they can easily compare related information and/or recognize how entries find themselves placed in the general research literature. Additional info boxes will be placed near to related entries to add local phenomena, additional examples and understudied aspects. There will be two tables of contents (structural & alphabetical) for main entries, in addition to a top-notch index for relevant details will make retrieval easy.
This is the first work of such depth with a specific scope on authoritarianism and dictatorship studies. Of course, several aspects of democratization and democracy-support overlap with this purview (and will be included), but the EncTyr’s main focus remains autocracy, their classifications, related concepts, their behavior and their impact on the polities they rule. EncTyr is designed to become the ‘go-to book’ for every scholar in this field, regardless of their experience and research purpose.